Drinks with Bullies

Ever wonder “What are bullies thinking?” or “Are my childhood bullies sorry?”… then keep reading.

I traveled to my native Venezuela for Christmas to attend family weddings this year. Not having lived there for any amount of time during my adult life, I did not know anyone outside my immediate family and I could not drive (I had no idea how to get anywhere). So you can imagine how happy and grateful I felt that my little sister, Tina, welcomed me into her group of friends and dragged my butt all over town the entire week.

We definitely had fun and I felt accepted and welcomed. I was still trying to get used to the racial jokes and homophobic slurs, which my sister assured me meant nothing more than pure fun (no real racism or homophobia behind them). Having lived in Caracas before, I sort of understood, but it was still quite the culture shock from the political correctness to which I have become accustomed in the US.

One night we got together with her friends at someone’s house. It was a beautiful night, and we were gathered outside on the terrace with lawn chairs, beers, and animated atmosphere that only a group of young Venezuelans can create. I got introduced to everyone, and I sat quietly on a chair to watch. They pinned me as the quiet type (I don’t get that a lot), which I did not mind at all. My personality comes out when I’m comfortable, and I was still getting my sociocultural bearings.

Somehow the topic of bullying came up, but mostly as a joke and not the serious subject I believe so strongly it is. Most of the attendees had gone to school togetyher, so they all spoke of people they knew. Here are some of the things I heard them say (keep in mind this is a group of male 30 year olds):

  1. Bullying did not exist more than 2 years ago. It’s something that came up just recently.
  2. It’s one thing to be bullied, and another to be subdued by peers for being antisocial. (the implication being that one is not deserved, while the other one is, respectively)
  3. We would all call this kid some nickname quietly when he was walking down the hall, and everyone else would join in, but he couldn’t tell where the noises where coming from. It was funny to see him turn back and forth to figure out where it was coming from. Everytime he heard that word he would freak out. {laughs}
  4. I do feel remorse for some things I did, but there were other times that they were asking for a beating.
  5. Nonono, that was not bullying, that was a regular/normal/ordinary beating.
  6. Sometimes we would pull other guys’ pants down on the outdoors basketball court. It happened to me, too {laughs}. But remember that other guy? His balls were hanging in the wind! {laughs}
  7. Dude, you can’t tell me they weren’t asking for it. Remember those two other guys? They would spend recess time upstais in the classroom STUDYING!!! What losers!
  8. If I had sons, I would tell them to beat up whoever messes with them. That’s the only way to stop bullying. I don’t know what I would do if I had girls, it’s much more difficult there.
  9. The thing is that all these things we did were so funny! I wasn’t doing any of it to hurt anyone, I just did it because it made me laugh! And it still does!
  10. It’s obvious that any grown person knows that teasing other people is wrong. This is just kid stuff.

 

At first I sat quietly hoping they would get sick of the topic and move on, but by the third beating story (and laughter that ensued) I was done. I could not hear any more. I told my sister the smoke was making me sick (which was actually very true) and spent the rest of the evening backing up my photos on my phone in the living room while everyone kept on sharing stories and laughing outside.

You see, I WAS THAT KID that went to the library during recess because my life was so socially unbearable that I could not stand being around other kids in my class. I WAS THAT KID that as soon as the kids on my bus found out what my mother called me (little angel) they would all chant it and clap to a hideous tune. I WAS THAT KID who got voted to be queen of my class, only to be told (brutally) by my classmates that they did it out of pity and they had changed their minds, so voting would have to be done over. I WAS THAT KID who would be told that my crush wanted me to be his girlfriend (my crush was also in on the joke), and then just watched them all laugh at me when I believed it. I WAS THAT KID. You really don’t want me to keep going. I was scarred by these experiences, and my ability to trust and feel loved was damaged even in my adult relationships because of them. There is nothing funny about my childhood traumas at school among kids who thought and did all the items above.

I never told my sister the real reason I excused myself that night. I thought she would be upset that I isolated myself, but she wasn’t. I was glad about that. I did not want to make her feel bad, or let on that I was not having a good time with her friends after all her kindness and sincere attempts to make me feel welcome. If she’s reading this now, I’m sorry I didn’t tell you. I didn’t think you’d understand.

I always wondered if my personal bullies felt bad for what they did to me, but I always told myself these two things:

  1. Kids don’t really know what bullying is when they are doing it, so they would never look back and regret. They did things because it was funny. They probably remember it as funny.
  2. It doesn’t matter if they are sorry. I’m the one that has to forgive and move on with my life.

 

I should be glad that I was right on both counts, but I’m not. I guess I still had some faith in humanity. I hoped that the new bullying campaign would help them make the connection, but it sounds like they see bullying as something “new” that doesn’t apply to them. It’s really not their fault that they were truly unaware of the likely lasting negative effect they induced in other more sensitive kids’ psyches, but I hope it is still ok for me to reserve the right to not have to hear their stories.

For all of you out there who at one point or another bullied someone, and you are sorry, just know that we love you for it. It doesn’t take our pain and suffering away, but some level of justice or validation does go a long way. For those of you who still believe it was all fun and games, and the target was just not being a good sport, please keep your thoughts to yourself. You never know when you might be in the presence of someone who was really hurt in the past that you might be offending through your indifference.

Love all around,

ina

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